BANGALORE, India and WASHINGTON — In unveiling federal budget blueprints for upcoming fiscal years, Indian government officials have been trumpeting what appear to be huge increases for space activity. But a quick analysis of actual space spending tells a different story.

For example, India has allocated 67.81 billion rupees ($1.25 billion) for space programs for the 2013-2014 fiscal year that starts April 1. That sum, if spent in its entirety, would be an increase of 39 percent from the previous fiscal year.

However, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) typically spends significantly less money during a given year than is allocated at the outset. If actual funding outlays are compared, ISRO spending has remained essentially flat during the last three years.

Less Than Meets the Eye

A look at annual budget authorizations and actual outlays indicates that spending
at the Indian Space Research Organisation has increased fairly modestly over the
past few years. Indian government officials have been touting increases in the 40
percent range by comparing allocations with prior-year outlays.

                             Allocation              Actual outlay      Year-over-year change

2009-2010                    ——                        42                              ——

2010-2011                      58                        48.5                         15%

2011-2012                      66                        44.6                          8%

2012-2013                     67                        49                            10%

2013-2014                     68                        ——                             ——

Spending figures are in billions of Indian rupees (1 rupee = $0.018)

For the 2010-2011 fiscal year, Indian government officials hailed the 58 billion rupee space budget allocation as a 38 percent increase from the prior year. But ISRO’s actual spending for 2010-2011 was 48.5 billion rupees, a more modest increase of 15 percent, according to SpaceNews calculations based on ISRO budget allocations and advertised percentage increases year over year.

Similar calculations indicate that ISRO spent 44.6 billion rupees in 2011-2012 — an 8 percent decline compared with prior-year spending — and 49 million rupees in 2012-2013. The initial allocations for those fiscal years were 66 billion rupees and 67 billion rupees, respectively.

According to the budget documents released to India’s Parliament Feb. 28 by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, ISRO ranks second among Indian science agencies in spending, behind the Department of Atomic Energy, which is slated to receive 84.5 billion rupees for the upcoming year.

According to the budget documents, 15 billion rupees is being set aside for building and launching ISRO’s Insat series of telecommunications satellites. ISRO is developing a large communications satellite platform, expected to weigh 4 metric tons, with a 2013-2014 budget of about 2 billion rupees, according to the documents.

Expanding the Insat system is a high priority for ISRO, which has struggled in recent years to keep pace with burgeoning domestic demand for satellite telecommunications services driven primarily by television viewers.

ISRO also is slated to receive 1.67 billion rupees for a Mars orbiter targeted for launch this year and for a second Space Capsule Recovery Experiment to validate the re-entry technologies.

Development of ISRO’s Mark-3 Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle, designed to launch 4-ton satellites, received a 1.34 billion rupee allocation, documents show. Total allocated funding for launch vehicle technology is about 23 billion rupees, budget documents show.

Also included in the ISRO plan is an 800 million rupee effort to build a remote sensing satellite that will operate in geostationary orbit and 1 billion rupees for rocket engine development and human spaceflight-related activities, the documents show.

Warren Ferster is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews and is responsible for all the news and editorial coverage in the weekly newspaper, the Web site and variety of specialty publications such as show dailies. He manages a staff of seven reporters...